To my friend’s rapist, 

How could I not have suspected you? Maybe because you just didn’t look, act, or smell like a Rapist to me. You don’t lounge in dark alleys. You’re not a gang member. You’re not a crazy drunkard.

I remember how I found out. It was past midnight in her room. She was perched on the chair, I on the bed. “Did he,” I hesitated, “sexually take advantage of you?” I was too chicken to say it. Measuring her words carefully, she murmured the memory, letting the words roll off her tongue. She was not looking at me. Listening, I felt my mouth go dry, my body rigid. I sat frozen. She hugged me and smiled. “Don’t feel bad for me, Maggie.” At the time, I didn’t realize.

A few days after she told me what happened, I went online and searched “rape” on Google. It is defined in Massachusetts by three elements:
• Penetration of ANY orifice by ANY object,
• Force or threat of force, and
• Sexual contact against the will of the victim.

So. Under Massachusetts state law, you belong in jail. But under Amherst regulation, you should just take some time off.

For months afterwards, I felt betrayed. I felt ill at ease. I feared for my safety. I wanted to kill you, actually. But I kept seeing you in Val and kept acknowledging your presence with a nod or smile. I hate myself for having treated you so nicely.

You think that rape only affected my friend? It affected her whole circle too. We were all shaken and angry. How could something so terrible happen? Why didn’t we see it before? Isn’t rape recognizable?

Before this, I thought rape was horrible, nasty, sexual, a something that happens to some people in some faraway place, right? Just not here.

But it did. And it does.

It is more than you, rapist. It is more than my friend and me. It is more than her circle. It is in our very humanity to address, discuss, prevent, and raise awareness of sexual assault and rape.

It is beyond “women’s issues” or “gender issues.”

It is about being free and respected.

We have to take action and stand up for our humanity, our freedom of sexual expression, our right to exist without fear of sexual violence or control.

I do not want to have to write another one of these.

-MH

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